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The Henry Ford Estate, also called Fair Lane, was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966. It is currently made up of 202 acres of land, an impressive limestone mansion and a powerhouse in Dearborn, Michigan, on the banks of the Rouge River. It is now owned by the University of Michigan and shares its borders with the Dearborn campus. Building on the house began in 1913 for Henry Ford and his wife Clara, who sought distance from the “bustle of Detroit” (a bit of irony here) and wished to surround themselves with the peace of a natural setting. It took some 500 – 800 artisans three years to complete the house. Ford was even known to pull men from his auto plant assembly line to work on the home.

The mansion has a large balcony overlooking the Cascades, which are harnessed for power in the Power House, recently renovated and jam packed with gleaming gadgets, many invented and tinkered with by Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. A giant stone patio overlooks a meadow lined with maple and oak trees, which is really spectacular for autumn tree gazing. There are extensive rose gardens, a garden full of blue flowers, a gigantic lilac hedge, a boathouse, a brand new tree house. There are manmade ponds; a giant stone lined rectangle and an oval with a little stone bridge. A large gazebo with side wings and stone steps, hiking trails, nature preserves and a wishing well. There is a curved driveway, and across the street a child sized playhouse. They now offer guided tours of the house and surrounding area, which is maintained by some 250 volunteers. What was once a Pool House in the mansion was filled in to become the Ford Motor Company archives. This has since become a dining hall/restaurant.

They have a big Christmas thing every year where you might go and gawk at the eighty-foot banister, carved from one solid piece of oak, and admire the Christmas decorations. You can tour the interior of the mansion, stand behind ropes and look at the actual bed where Henry Ford died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1947. Be amazed by the carved wooden shelves of the library; imagine the square dances in the Field Room. Then you could stop off at the gift shop where you are likely to find tiny Model T pencil sharpeners, metal tree ornaments, mugs with pictures of cars and an assortment of books about the family, usually highlighting Henry Ford’s friendship with Thomas Edison and diminishing his friendship with Adolf Hitler.

A virtual, panoramic tour of the home is available at: http://www.umd.umich.edu/fairlane/tours.html

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